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Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited (NZSE:FCG) is about to trade ex-dividend in the next two days. The ex-dividend date is usually set to be one business day before the record date which is the cut-off date on which you must be present on the company's books as a shareholder in order to receive the dividend. The ex-dividend date is of consequence because whenever a stock is bought or sold, the trade takes at least two business day to settle. In other words, investors can purchase Fonterra Co-operative Group's shares before the 29th of September in order to be eligible for the dividend, which will be paid on the 15th of October.
The company's upcoming dividend is NZ$0.15 a share, following on from the last 12 months, when the company distributed a total of NZ$0.20 per share to shareholders. Last year's total dividend payments show that Fonterra Co-operative Group has a trailing yield of 5.8% on the current share price of NZ$3.43. We love seeing companies pay a dividend, but it's also important to be sure that laying the golden eggs isn't going to kill our golden goose! That's why we should always check whether the dividend payments appear sustainable, and if the company is growing.
Dividends are typically paid from company earnings. If a company pays more in dividends than it earned in profit, then the dividend could be unsustainable. Fonterra Co-operative Group is paying out an acceptable 63% of its profit, a common payout level among most companies. Yet cash flow is typically more important than profit for assessing dividend sustainability, so we should always check if the company generated enough cash to afford its dividend. It paid out 24% of its free cash flow as dividends last year, which is conservatively low.
It's encouraging to see that the dividend is covered by both profit and cash flow. This generally suggests the dividend is sustainable, as long as earnings don't drop precipitously.
Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?
When earnings decline, dividend companies become much harder to analyse and own safely. If business enters a downturn and the dividend is cut, the company could see its value fall precipitously. With that in mind, we're discomforted by Fonterra Co-operative Group's 8.9% per annum decline in earnings in the past five years. When earnings per share fall, the maximum amount of dividends that can be paid also falls.
The main way most investors will assess a company's dividend prospects is by checking the historical rate of dividend growth. Fonterra Co-operative Group has seen its dividend decline 5.4% per annum on average over the past eight years, which is not great to see. While it's not great that earnings and dividends per share have fallen in recent years, we're encouraged by the fact that management has trimmed the dividend rather than risk over-committing the company in a risky attempt to maintain yields to shareholders.
The Bottom Line
Is Fonterra Co-operative Group an attractive dividend stock, or better left on the shelf? The payout ratios are within a reasonable range, implying the dividend may be sustainable. Declining earnings are a serious concern, however, and could pose a threat to the dividend in future. In summary, while it has some positive characteristics, we're not inclined to race out and buy Fonterra Co-operative Group today.
However if you're still interested in Fonterra Co-operative Group as a potential investment, you should definitely consider some of the risks involved with Fonterra Co-operative Group. To help with this, we've discovered 4 warning signs for Fonterra Co-operative Group (1 is a bit concerning!) that you ought to be aware of before buying the shares.
A common investment mistake is buying the first interesting stock you see. Here you can find a list of promising dividend stocks with a greater than 2% yield and an upcoming dividend.
This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.
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